ST2 Planning Corridors in Orange

Ben’s report on bringing forward ST3 planning money should assuage a lot of fears that Sound Transit’s resources are being diverted to something less than Link-standard rail. Federal funding requires an alternatives analysis, which may as well leverage the resources Seattle has gathered. The wording of the McGinn Amendment up for consideration tomorrow by the ST Board shouldn’t stir panic.

However, a lot of reporting on this story has focused heavily on application to the Ballard-Fremont Rapid Streetcar. I don’t see this planning as primarily about rapid streetcar, but if any actors are intending this to be the new focus for Sound Transit, that would be a mistake.

In Seattle, the ST2 package promised study of three corridors: downtown-West Seattle, downtown-Ballard, and Ballard-UW. If construction is to begin before the ST1 and ST2 bonds get paid off in the 2030s, it’s going to require legislative action.  Although no one knows for sure how big of a package the state might authorize, the region’s other goals are Downtown Redmond, Issaquah, Everett, and Tacoma. This implies scope for North King County in the billions of dollars. For Sound Transit, then, extensive tunneling is a viable option.

Seattle’s Transit Master Plan, in contrast, is scoped to reflect Seattle’s relatively meager funding capacity, and does so beautifully. Limited to Rapid Streetcar, the entire High Capacity Transit plan amounts to about $700m — less than the returns from a 30-year $80 tab fee at $810m. The plan skipped over the Interbay corridor largely because it would likely be duplicative with Sound Transit*; there is insufficient right-of-way to do anything rapid for Ballard-UW without a  tunnel the city can’t afford on its own. The TMP is a complement to the long-range Sound Transit plan, not a replacement for it or a guide as to where ST should go.

* Ballard via Interbay isn’t actually a done deal. The monorail project probably picked the right corridor, but with enough data I could certainly be convinced an alignment through Fremont is superior.

78 Replies to “Limits of the TMP”

  1. What are the major governmental roadblocks for Seattle to build its own subway to Ballard before 2030? Do we need a new funding mechanism, or just the state’s thumbs-up on expanding existing mechinisms? Starting over after the Monorail with car tabs doesn’t seem like the best strategy, but I don’t know our state’s funding rules well enough to know what the right strategy is.

    1. Matt, we’d need a change in RCW 35.95A, the CTA law that allowed the monorail, to not specify “monorail”. We’d probably also need to change the way MVET value is determined to something other than the state’s tables – if that hasn’t already happened – to something more like blue book.

      Or, we’d need to change the RCW to allow non monorail, and then find a new funding source entirely to go to ballot with.

      What do you think I’m working on? :)

      1. Hmm, so why do they even use the term “monorail” at all, given that their definition really has little to do with monorails…?

      2. That was the monrail – light rail rivalry that was going on then. The monorailites were afraid that light rail would be watered down to “in-street surface everywhere” as most light rail systems in the country were. Now that ST has proven it’s willing and able to do tunnel/elevated segments, that’s not an issue anymore.

  2. Sound Transit has the sole legislative authority to build high-capacity transit like Link. It is highly doubtful the legislature would allow Seattle that capacity. Seattle can only build a streetcar-type rail. In my view, BRT can do everything a streetcar can for less money and less disruption. Streetcars are great for stimulating development, but I think that is already happening on most of these corridors.

    I would also question whether the city can afford to build a line to Ballard on its own. Why would the rest of the city be motivated to vote for it? When McGinn went back on his promise to build to West Seattle he lost a big chunk of both the real and symbolic citywide support for a network that covered all four quadrants of the city.

    1. Yes and no. The municipality is certainly not prohibited from building any sort of transit.

      The legislature is just more likely to endow Sound Transit the degree of levying authority that would be required to build real rapid transit that is would be to authorize the city to do so.

      Which is stupid, and yet another reminder of the anti-urban bias present in everything Olympia does.

      Any self-governing entity should have the right to tax itself in any way it chooses for projects that it deems worthwhile.

      1. It’s not stupid, it’s actually quite smart.

        By holding Seattle hostage, by limiting what we can tax ourselves, they ensure A) that a statewide tax measure is more likely to pass B) that the rest of the state gets to fleece Seattle when it does.

        See if Seattle taxes itself X% it gets to keep X%. However if the State taxes Seattle (and the rest of the state obviously) X%, Seattle gets about .50X of the money raised in the city, with the other .50% skimmed off the top and sent around to other areas of the state.

        So in otherwords, while it is bullshit, it’s not stupid.

      1. My understanding is that it would need amending. And given McGinn’s popularity in Olympia and the lack of commitment to transit by most of Seattle’s lame legislators, I don’t see that happening.

    2. Bingo. It is highly unlikely that the state legislature would allow Seattle a suitable funding mechanism that would allow us to go it alone with high capacity transit. This is particularly true after the monorail debacle and even truer now that we have a Mayor who isn’t exactly on good terms with anyone.

      That said, Seattle can proceed on its own with lower level transportation investments that wouldn’t require state approval or as much funding. I’m thinking of something along the lines of a highly expanded streetcar system that would tie what we have now to what we expect to get in ST3.

      All we would need from ST for that is some idea of what an ST3 route might look like, and that shouldn’t be hard to come by.

    3. BRT can’t do everything a streetcar can, two areas where rail is superior are ride quality and capacity.

      Demand is high enough that there is no way to provide the needed capacity with BRT. BRT operating costs would be far higher due to the need to hire more drivers than for a streetcar.

      BRT is also not cheaper or less disruptive. In order to offer the same service speeds, frequency, and reliability as rail you have to make similar investments in infrastructure as rail. Anything less reduces the quality of service.

  3. How are they planning on spanning the ship canal? Is it going to be a drawbridge, or high enough like Translinks new line to YVR?

    I don’t see the Ballard-UW being viable enough compared to the other options. I don’t see why a bus can’t serve this good enough. With the other possible lines I see way more potential ridership, not sure if West Seattle to Downtown beats the Ballard to Downtown, but those have heavy amounts of traffic no matter how it’s looked at, imho.

    1. Who is “they”? Sound Transit, or Seattle? What mode are you talking? The Fremont and Ballard bridges both used to carry tons of streetcar traffic every day. I don’t know what current thinking is about light rail to Ballard via Interbay; the Ballard Bridge needs replacement (or at least widening) at some point, but it might make more sense to dip under the canal at Nickerson.

      The problem with Ballard-UW isn’t that of overwhelming demand between the two destinations. It’s that 45th and 50th are saturated with SOV traffic trying to get to/from I-5. Ballard-UW requires grade-separated transit. Doing that might in turn make living in Ballard and commuting to the U District an even more attractive option. It also dovetails nicely with serving the Ballard-Eastside demand corridor.

      1. Well, gee. Reduce the reliance on I-5 (which is what Link is supposed to be doing) and suddenly you can have access to north-south from the west without a car!!

      2. @kyle., sorry for the confusion. Since I’m a train nut I’m aware of the former streetcars, and as to the mode of transportation I was thinking rail, my bad for not being more specific.

        Your point about SOVs taking up 45th and 5oth is well taken, and I guess that has me wondering why a bus service with minimal traffic wouldn’t be the right solution.

        As to going out to the east side, then I’d say rip out the Burke Gilman and put the tracks back in, then having anything on rails from Ballard to Bothell would make sense for the most part.

        @dp. I agree, less reliance on I-5! I hate that damn thing…..

    2. “I don’t see why a bus can’t serve this good enough.”

      Wow, have you ever ridden the 44? That is a laughable statement. Ballard-UW desperately needs a tunnel.

      1. Yes, rode it at least a dozen times this year, so not much. But I’ve been on worse, like the 7 which I rode a lot for a few years. The 44 can wait, the 7 needs it more, and now.

      2. The 7 corridor needs to be restructured to create better Link connections. But Rainier Valley rail already exists to be accessed.

        The 44 needs to be replaced wholesale.

        Didn’t we figure out that 44 ridership is equivalent to at least 2/3 of combined 15/18 ridership? And that’s in spite of the greater anti-transit, pro-driving bias for east-west transit (while the 18 is 3x worse than driving, the 44 can be 6x worse than driving).

        A 44 subway replacement could capture all of the 44’s ridership, most of the 15’s and 18’s, much of the 28’s, 5’s, and 16’s, and plenty of new riders in its corridor who would rather not touch the 44 with a 50-foot utility pole.

      3. I’d be inclined to think that a 45th St subway would only capture significant 15/18 ridership if it offered a zero-transfer ride to downtown. The penalty of the 15/18 isn’t usually great enough to justify crossing all the way to the U-District and transferring.

        But as previous posts here have shown, if the E/W line were interlined with North Link service, that effectively reduces the capacity of North Link.

      4. But as previous posts here have shown, if the E/W line were interlined with North Link service, that effectively reduces the capacity of North Link.

        Nobody has shown this, and I’m getting sick of reading false presumptions as “proven” fact.

        Nobody has shown that north of Brooklyn needs close to as much service as Brooklyn-Downtown.

        Nobody has shown that north of Brooklyn needs 4 minute trains, nor has anyone shown that 4 minutes north of Brooklyn would not still be possibly with interlining.

        Nobody has shown that North Link’s high-ball intended ridership would even entail such frequent service. And nobody has shown that those numbers are realistic.

      5. I happen to think interlining is better than a forced transfer, but if RapidRide frequencies remain crap and the forced transfer is to a service that everybody thinks must be so frequent as to preclude interlining (!), then the roundabout way would still offer a far faster and more dependable trip than the “direct” route.

      6. There are rapid transit systems all over the world that prove that an “in-and-out” ride, with a painless transfer, totally beats a slow and crappy cross-town bus.

        This is precisely the same, only the triangle has been rotated 33 degrees clockwise. A fast-and-painless detour via Montlake beats an inferior direct service any day.

      7. d.p., I censored myself. I was originally going to add a snarky line about how I don’t believe North Link generates anywhere near the demand that Sound Transit is building for. Ballard-Downtown has significant demand right now, and the urbanist in me would really like to see ST kill off North Link entirely in favor of peak-only commuter rail service.

        But I omitted that.

      8. Ugh, and where I say “North Link,” I meant to say “North Corridor High-Capacity Transit”.

        In other words, we don’t need a high-frequency all-day train all the way to Lynnwood.

      9. Well, clearly I don’t object to including snark, Kyle! Truly sorry for jumping down your throat.

        “Kill one project for the other” is not terribly strategic, as I imagine you would agree.

        But it really helps to avoid reinforcing conceptions by short-handing “truisms” that likely aren’t true. There are so many flaws in the logic that has been used to turn them into widely held conceptions in the first place.

        “We need regional transit first.” Why?
        “New development at Northgate and Lynnwood will yield 50,000-75,000 riders.” How?
        “50,000-75,000 riders means trains every 4 minutes.” Show your math.
        “4 minute trains mean no interlining, ever.” Seattle exceptionalism and nothing else.

      10. @d.p. – A 45th St. subway could only “capture all of the 44′s ridership” if its stops were spaced within walking distance of the people who live along the 44’s current route. Otherwise, we end up with the same situation we have on MLK today: hundreds of households within spitting distance of the light rail line, but unable to access it because the stops are so far apart.

        We have to assume that a 45th St. subway line will not have stops every half-mile, which means we’ll still need a bus on the surface.

        A Ballard-to-U-District line should also hit the heart of the Fremont and Wallingford business districts, rather than trying to replace the 44.

      11. On the contrary, a 45th St. subway would capture more than the 44’s ridership because of all the people that don’t ride the 44 today because it’s too slow and unreliable.

        The stops don’t have to be nearly as close together as the 44’s stops are. Every 1/2 mile or so is plenty.

      12. At 1/2 mile spacing, a subway would absolutely capture the 44’s ridership, simply because the 44 is so freaking slow.

        Had Link been built with reasonable spacing, and as a tunnel under Rainier (rather than at-grade on MLK), the 7 would be completely redundant. It’s too late for that now, though some infill stations can help. But it’s definitely *not* too late to do a better job with 45th St rail.

      13. @Eric – I did not say that the stops have to be “as close together as the 44’s stops are.” What I clearly said is that, if we want a rail line to replace a bus line, then the stops need to be within walking distance of the folks who live along the line. This has not happened on MLK, which is why bus service on MLK can’t be eliminated.

        I agree with you that rail has a larger walkshed than a bus, so the stops do not need to be as close together. However, if the purpose of a Ballard-UW rail line is to replace the 44, it has to be implemented with stop spacing akin to Portland’s Yellow Line, rather than akin to Central Link along MLK.

        For a subway, that many stations would likely be cost prohibitive. This leads me to the conclusion that we should not aim to replace the 44 with an underground train that follows its route, but rather create a fast, reliable connection between the 4 neighborhoods that lie along the east-west corridor: U-District, Wallingford, Fremont, Ballard. If we are tunneling, we don’t need to follow the street grid, and can therefore hit the centers of all four neighborhoods. I think skipping the Fremont business district would be a shortsighted mistake.

      14. I don’t have the same level of skepticism about the North ridership projections that you guys seem to.

        Just take a look at the I-5 congestion between the Ship Canal and Lynnwood. There’s your demand. Those trains will be full.

      15. I heartily agree that congestion is a great driver for transit ridership. But for those folks stuck on I-5 you have to make the entire trip time competitive. That’s difficult and expensive to do. Are you going to build parking stalls for all those cars at Link Stations? Blanket suburbia with frequent feeder routes that are deadheading more than half the platform hours? The only arrow in the quiver seems to be huge subsides in parking and suburban bus service. Maybe it’s better to let commuters rot in an I-5 traffic jam or choose to change their lifestyle and move closer in where transit actually has critical mass.

      16. My hypothetical 44 Rapid subway line with approximately 1/2 mile stop spacing would be twice as fast as driving or riding the 44. And except the hill between Phinney and Ballard, you’re never more than a 10 minute walk (5 minutes in most cases) from a station. The average speed I used is the same as the systems I’m familiar with that have similar stop spacing (Bangkok and Canada Line).

      17. Well, feeder service is really in the hands of CT – they’ll have a bunch of service hours freed up once Link is built out, since they’ll be able to truncate/eliminate all the 400 series routes. That is a lot of “new” service hours, and while we’ll have to see exactly what they do with it, it’s more than enough to seriously enhance local service.

        Deadheading isn’t going to be such a big deal (at least no more than currently), as N/S traffic on I-5 is fairly bidirectional now. If the local routes are crafted properly, it shouldn’t be an issue.

        But if the surburban feeders aren’t enough, there’s always the potential for people to migrate from the Snohomish suburbs to the newly upzoned Lynnwood/Northgate areas. It’s more likely for someone from Lake Stevens to move to Lake Forest Park than to South Lake Union, methinks.

      18. CT – they’ll have a bunch of service hours freed up once Link is built out, since they’ll be able to truncate/eliminate all the 400 series routes.

        Not true. Link doesn’t serve any of the stops which generate this ridership. They will still have to provide feeder service which will be much less productive. It’s unclear that there are any savings at all.

      19. Chh, Eric, Aleks, Oran,

        It’s very late, so here’s the short version:
        http://www.flickr.com/photos/67869267@N07/6212212349/in/photostream/

        This is my shortest-possible alignment map: Brooklyn to a stop between 15th and 17th (2 entrances), with three possible intermediate routings.

        It is precisely 3 miles for the top 2 routing, probably more like 3.75 for the one that hits lower Fremont. It would avoid the expense of tunneling into Old Ballard, and would eliminate the need for three separate Ballard stations.

        By having an entrance at 17th, the western terminus easily captures the walkshed of downtown Ballard, which is where the 44’s high-ridership segment begins. Only a handful would need to walk or take a bus from further west.

        There would be a station at 8th, only 1/2 mile from the terminus’s 15th entry.

        Phinney or Upper Fremont is barely over a 1/2 mile from 8th. Anyone along the slope can simply choose whether to walk a few blocks up or a few blocks down. (Since the map was drawn, we have debated a stop at 46th & Fremont rather than 46th & Phinney, to provide better access to Upper Fremont’s business side and to allow for Aurora bus transfers. The two options are only 900 feet from one another, and not prohibitive for each other’s walkshed.)

        I’m not going to get into the Phinney vs Fremont debate again. Suffice to say that someone will need the 5 to transfer, JUST AS THEY DO NOW. The 5 should be improved significantly, to eradicate the frustrating transfer it currently represents.

        Wallingford’s 44 stops, from Stone Way to Latona, span only 4,000 feet. Put a single stop at Meridian or Wallingford Ave, and every former 44 stop is less than 2000 feet away. Easily justifiable.

        Wallingford and Brooklyn would be the furthest apart of any two stops on this line… precisely one mile! That’s closer than any two stops on MLK. It’s closer than Westlake to Capitol Hill.

        This is a truly urban, closely spaced subway proposal. It’s very short, and with well-placed stations it renders the 44 utterly redundant.

      20. Bernie – short-distance feeder service is going to be less productive than long-haul freeway routes?

        CT’s current 400 series routes go all the way to downtown Seattle from suburbs all over Snohomish County. They spend a half-hour, one way, outside of CT’s service area, picking up zero passengers.

        If the people running CT are not completely insane, these routes will all be truncated at Lynnwood station (if not outright replaced). The amount of service hours it frees up is totally game-changing for CT. They should be able to come up with a hell of a feeder network with those hours.

      21. My argument, Lack There, with which I think Bernie would agree, is that CT’s feeders for Link are essentially still long-haul.

        (And even if we built Link all the way to Everett, most of the feeders would still be long-haul.)

        So no, they’re not all that productive. And they’re not particularly any more appealing to the transit-reluctant than anything offered today.

      22. I think d.p. put it well. All I’m pointing out is that you don’t get back the entire service hours it takes the bus to go from Lynwood to DT and back. I’d guess it’s more like a 50% pay back. Coupled with the operating subsidy for Link I’m not convinced there will be much money to actually increase service hours.

      23. The subway does not have to replace the 44, anymore than MLK Link replaces the 8. It’s a mistake for RapidRide to try to do both local and limited-stop service simultaneously, because it’s mediocre at both. You need one subway line with the major stops that most people can take, and a bus for the in-between stops like Latona and 8rd NW that fewer people use.

        Adding rapid transit does not reduce auto traffic, because if some drivers switch to transit, others will see the drop in congestion and make more car trips. So transit ridership goes up but the number of cars doesn’t go down.

        Likewise, we can’t realistically cut the number of cars entering I-5 until a future paradigm shift when everyone starts driving less. 45th has no room for surface HCT, and 50th and 40th are probably not serious contenders either. So it has to be a subway.

        “CT’s feeders for Link are essentially still long-haul”

        Edmonds to Lynnwood, Mukilteo to Lynnwood, and Everett to Lynnwood are no further than the 5. I actually had an idea last night for two routes, Edmonds-Lynnwood-Everett and Mukilteo-Lynnwood-Canyon Park. That would be vaguely grid-like.

      24. Mike, any vibrant transit system on earth tells you that you’re wrong. With really fast service through walkable areas, and easy-to-reach stops in the 1/2-mile to 7/8-mile range, shadow service is totally unnecessary.

        8th Ave west is a great place for a stop! It captures walkers from north and south, and it’s just enough of a hike from 15th (with a dead zone between) that the walksheds aren’t inherently in conflict. And check this out — they’re really pro-transit there.

        What you don’t need are the stops at 14th and at 12th. With rapid transit running beneath, literally no one will be using them.

        Similarly, you don’t really need a Latona stop. It’s a whopping 1/3 mile from Wallingford Ave (barely 7 minutes extra walk). And it’s only a 12-minute walk from Brooklyn station for even higher volume service! Latona also isn’t a high-volume north-south corridor with transfer potential; people are only coming from short distances north and south, and are likely used to walking to 45th and following the active business corridor westward anyway. (Commercial corridors increase comfortable walking distance, always.) Put a station at Wallingford or Meridian and the demand for the 44 disappears.

        As for CT feeders being the same length as the 5:

        The 5 sucks, and nobody in their right mind wants to ride it end-to-end. One of the major advantages of the North Seattle Spur is eliminating the need for anyone to ride the whole 5 ever again!

      25. And RapidRide is mediocre because its service is mediocre. Who wants to walk further for something that has no schedule yet barely comes and is still fucking slow anyway? I’m a big-time walker, and I don’t even want to walk further for RapidRide.

        RapidRide’s spacing is bad, but only because it’s barely different from the local. Replacing it with the kind of ultra-express that still demands a local shadower — unnecessarily dividing your service resources — would be the height of folly!

      26. 100% with d.p. on this one. Ride the Green Line in Boston sometime. 1/2 mile spacing, no shadow service needed — and no one would even think to want shadow service, not least because the surface streets (like 45th) are incredibly congested.

      27. Gentler question for Mike:

        To what degree is your desire for an express-and-shadow model influenced by Los Angeles (literally the only city I can think of where this is done as a matter of course).

        L.A. has two characteristics that make this model make sense:

        1) It’s a gigantic grid of mega-blocks, where with cross-streets of importance frequently a mile or from one another.

        2) In spite of (1), it has the population density to support impressive levels of service on the expresses, plus only-slightly-less-impressive levels of service on the shadowers.

        Without both of those features, your model plainly fails, dividing both agency resources and rider demand by redundantly serving every corridor twice. We’re not dense enough — and we certainly haven’t been handed enough money — to support frequent service on both.

        It’s wasteful. Build a rapid transit corridor well, and you can stop busing on or adjacent to it. Then you can redirect your resources to bring up the level of connecting service and service throughout the city, which badly needs it!

      28. DP, I haven’t spent much time in LA. Here are the systems that most moved me and shaped my worldview. I grew up in Bellevue and have ties to suburban San Jose, CA, so my life is full of long-distance transit trips to the city or to friend’s houses. Lots of slow, hourly buses, which gave me a strong appreciation for frequency and speed. Now I live on Capitol Hill where the most bus lines cross, and I try to stick within N 55th St and S Othello St. I wait for ST 2 Link to be finished so I could potentially move to other areas without losing convenience.

        FABORABLE IMPRESSION:
        – NYC: subways and PATH allow you to go anywhere any time. No need to “plan” a trip around hourly service. Express tracks on subway good. Amazing transit connections to all neighboring states and Long Island: this is what every region should have, and did before we dismantled it.
        – DC: Metro full even at 10:30pm. Super-extensive TOD allows a lot of people to live and work near stations.
        – St Petersburg and Moscow: People take the metro longer distances, and transfer to a streetcar or bus for the last leg if necessary. All transit comes every 5 minutes all day. Outer stations 2 miles apart, allowing it to penetrate deep into the outskirts. Elecktrichkas (commuter rail) run hourly all day, extending a hundred miles. Open-air markets around every station, allowing you to pick up provisions on the way home or grab a snack. Lack of express tracks makes it tedious to travel ten metro stations every day between my apartment and my friend’s. Often 30 people are waiting at a station for somebody to arrive.
        – San Francisco: BART frequency makes it nicer than Caltrain, speed makes it nicer than MUNI or SamTrans buses. It just needs express tracks so it doesn’t take an hour to get from SF to Fremont, or 90 minutes to San Jose when that extension is finished.
        – Chicago: El is frequent but a bit slow and too many stations. Metra is hourly, not as good as PATH, but at least it’s an alternative to bus or driving. Buses are frequent but very slow. Excellent grid network and night owls.
        – Vancouver: Skytrain runs every 5 minutes. People gather at stations to walk to a social activity, like in Russia although not as much. Frequent gridded bus network. But don’t take a bus between three or more Skytrain stations because it’ll take significantly longer.
        – Germany (Duesseldorf/Cologne): comprehensive S-Bahn, U-Bahn, and (in Cologne) streetcar network, with buses filling in. Buses have wider stop spacing than in US, so don’t walk to another stop while waiting for a bus. Suburban bus frequency (half-hourly) better than US but not great. U-bahn has too many stops. S-Bahn line 1 1/2 hours long (Cologne-Duesseldorf-Essen), and runs 24 hours.

        UNFAVORABLE:
        – Portland: first MAX line has way too many stops and it crawls downtown. Later lines are somewhat better. I like the bus grid though.
        – San Jose, San Diego, Dallas: light rail travels on surface streets, so trips take twice as long as a grade-separated system would. Evening Sunday frequency drops to 20 or 30 minutes in some cases (although some of these like Portland added frequency later).
        – Los Angeles: Blue Line is ridiculously small for a region three times as populous as the Bay Area. A smaller region has 80 MPH 10-car BART. A larger region has 55 MPH 4-car(?) light rail. Red Line is capacious but doesn’t go very far. Buses to everywhere. I haven’t experienced the express, limited-stop, or BRT buses so I can’t comment on them.

      29. BTW, I included 8th NW mainly to needle you. It is one of the most deserving minor stations, and I have no doubt the subway speed from UW to Ballard would be sufficient even with it. If Link can get from Westlake to Brooklyn in 12 minutes, it should take about the same from Brooklyn to Ballard with more stations. Plus there’s certainly room for several TOD buildings if the city raises the zoning.

        Re Latona, I do find walking from University Way and across the freeway a bit annoying, and it has traces of a former streetcar suburb which could be developed into a TOD node. Plus with such a strong contingent coming out to save the 26, that could be an argument for it.

      30. From my perspective, either Wallingford gets one stop (45th/Wallingford), or two (45th/Latona and somewhere on Stone Way). What you choose depends on two things:

        – Do you go down to Fremont? If so, then a 40th/Stone stop becomes conceivable.
        – Where is Wallingford willing to accept upzoning?

        Wallingford Center is pretty built up. The old school is historic, and QFC probably won’t want to knock down the 2-story supermarket they just built (I know…)

        In contrast, the Latona area could potentially be more ripe for redevelopment. It’s closer to the freeway, and there are a bunch of relatively-derelict properties over there.

        The same is true for Stone Way. Lots of low-rent commercial properties and empty holes. And it’s right next to another street (Woodland Park) that used to be commercial, and very well could become commercial again.

        So before deciding on the stops, I would ask Wallingford. Tell them that wherever we put stops, they’re going to have to take upzones. I wouldn’t be surprised if they decide they’d rather keep Wallingford Center the way it is.

      31. The Wallingford station should be at 45th/Wallingford because that’s the center of the neighborhood commercial area. Putting it at the center encourages people to use it as the main way to access the neighborhood. Putting it at the edge of the neighborhood marginalizes the subway.

        Likewise, Brooklyn station belongs at 45th, not at Campus Parkway or 50th. Ballard station belongs at 22nd & Market. The Rainier Valley stations belong on Rainier; the only reason they’re on MLK is that Rainier was impossible due to its narrowness and congestion. The MLK segment is falling short of its potential because “Columbia City” station is outside Columbia City, and “Rainier Beach” station is at the edge of Rainier Beach. The stations may stage a comeback if the station areas are built up larger than their nominal neighborhoods and become the neighborhood centers, but that’s all speculation at this point. Let’s not make the same mistake in Wallingford and Ballard, otherwise Link will gain a reputation of “It takes you almost to where you want to go but not quite”. Too many American transit systems are built like that.

    3. Ideally they would build a tunnel under the canal. It wouldn’t have to be very deep. The other option would be a very high new bridge. Either option would be very expensive, but would make taking transit very competitive with driving since people could avoid both traffic congestion and the opening bridges.

    4. Sound Transit is tunneling under the ship canal to get to Montlake (in fact, they already did). We should do the same for Ballard.

      1. Not gonna argue that, but you do need to consider how deep they have to go in order to get there from CHS. One of the best aspects of the Interbay alignment is the cost-savings from running at-grade along 15th Ave W. Is it possible to serve Dravus St (with its new cross-town Metro service thanks to the RapidRide C realignment) and make it under the Canal?

        My gut says yes, but I am not a civil engineer. But if not, perhaps you widen the Ballard Bridge and give it the pedestrian facilities it desperately needs.

      2. I think an iconic cable stay bridge similar to those in Vancouver on the Skytrain would be both cheaper and fit the rising grade in Ballard better.

      3. It would have to be a tunnel.

        The ship canal is an active shipping lane managed by the Feds and any new bridge across it would have to be at the same height as the Aurora Bridge. Nobody is going to want to build something that big, with the associated long approaches, in that part of town.

        And, yes, the monorail folks *thought* they could build such a bridge, but in the end their engineering plan wasn’t any more real than their financing plan. Ultimately such a bridge would never get built.

        And tunnels work just fine.

      4. RBC, a cable stayed bridge causes neighborhood fights and needs to have a 100′ clearance. In Vancouver there was an existing bridge already, so no neighborhood fight.

        In our case, like Montlake, it makes more sense to tunnel. And yes, there’s plenty of room from Dravus to go below the water!

      5. Excellent point, Ben. That’s the best news I’ve heard all day. I haven’t been following the plans, but it seems to me that a combination of above grade (separated) along with tunnel would really work well for downtown to Ballard (via Interbay). Tunnel through downtown, go above ground from about Mercer to Interbay, then head down into a tunnel the rest of the way into Ballard. I like this for the following reasons:

        1) Costs and time to completion are kept pretty low, by minimizing the miles spent tunneling.
        2) The area where you will have elevated rail is where you have elevated rail already. This means the neighbors won’t complain too much.
        3) A few strategic stops make a lot of sense for high speed rail. In this case, you might have a stop downtown, the Seattle Center, Interbay and Ballard. Interbay essentially serves all of Magnolia through feeder buses (my guess is most of Magnolia lives within a few blocks of Dravus and 15th anyway). No waiting for traffic or bridges with only two intermediate stops would make for a very fast trip from downtown to Ballard.

      6. Tunnel through downtown, go above ground from about Mercer… minimizing the miles spent tunneling.

        Like Ben, I would very much like to see west-corridor north-south rail happen in the not-too-distant future. But the following must be stated unequivocally:

        The downtown-Mercer tunnel you just described is longer than an entire Ballard-UW rail line. Really. Just look at a map.

        The tunneling segments you describe might be the cheapest way to route that corridor. But if you’re going to build over 3 miles of tunnels, why not build the 3-mile east-west subway first, when it can be 100% grade-separated?

        No waiting for traffic or bridges with only two intermediate stops would make for a very fast trip from downtown to Ballard.

        I’m not an advocate for overserving low-density areas like Magnolia, but only 4 stops in 6 miles is incredibly wasteful. You leave huge numbers of people right along your line out of your walkshed. This is exactly the mistake of Rainier Valley Link and of Capitol Hill like. I’ll be damned if I watch Seattle blindly make it again.

      7. As we learned in North Link, sometimes it’s cheaper to extend a tunnel than to go up to the surface for a short segment and then dive down again.

      8. Mercer to Downtown is 2 miles if you drive the surface roads and include a stop at the Seattle Center. I just did that with Google Maps. I put one stop at Elliot and Mercer, another at 5th and Denny, and another at 9th and Pike (where the current tunnel ends). It shows 2 miles, but if it was underground, it would surely be shorter.

        As to the stops along the way, I completely disagree. For a rail system to be popular, it has to be fast. If you make too many stops, it won’t be. That being said, there would likely be another stop or two along the way.

        As to an Interbay stop; it has the following advantages:

        1) It serves Magnolia via feeder buses. Magnolia only has a handful of exits, so there really isn’t an alternative (unlike Queen Anne).
        2) It serves the densest part of Magnolia (there are a lot of apartments on that side of the hill).
        3) Interbay has enormous potential for growth. It wouldn’t surprise me to see huge buildings over there, very soon. I used to live in Interbay, and I can tell you that the residents of that area really won’t mind. On the other hand, I would imagine attempts to rezone Queen Anne for really big growth would be met with the same furor as Roosevelt. We could cram it down their throats, but good luck getting any rail passed after that.

      9. RossB,

        Way overdue, but worth the response.

        I presumed that you were arguing for the north-south through line that Ben advocates in his Seattle Subway mega-proposal, which would involve at a bare minimum a new tunnel all the way from Pioneer Square to Mercer & Elliott (3 miles).

        I didn’t realize that you were actually advocating the idea of branching at Convention Place and boring diagonally under SLU to LQA (2 miles, as you said).

        I find it to be a really interesting idea, so I’m hesitant to criticize it. However, as an idea that has never before been on the table or designated for study, I can only imagine that there are a lot of unknown logistical variables. Especially as it would completely ignore the street grid and require excessive ventilation at unknown locations.

        One nice thing about the North Seattle Spur proposal is that the bore would be hundreds of feet below any foundations, without being below sea level, while roughly following the established street grid anyway. Also, ventilation could presumably be built into the Wallingford station, which would be at roughly the mid-point of the 2.25-mile bored segment.

        So while I think your proposed alignment merits some exploration, I’m going to stick with my assessment that the North Seattle Spur, with no downtown to burrow under and no ship canal to cross, would likely be less expensive and less complicated.

  4. Martin, you may want to correct your date in this story . . . the ST1 and ST2 bonds won’t be paid off in the 2030’s. They’ll be paid off in the 2050’s. That’s because a whole lot more bonds are going to be sold, and they’ll be sold later.

    The 2011 Q2 “Asset Liability Management Report” said Sound Transit expected to issue $5.37 bln in new long-term bonds. Now, three months later, the 2011 Q3 “Asset Liability Management Report” says it plans on selling $6.8 bln of additional long-term bonds.

    That mountain of debt will be 30-year obligations, and some of it will be sold in 2023 or later.

    1. And we won’t be done paying of the SR 99 tunnel or the new 520 until your grandchildren are dead. What’s your point?

      1. The new bonds for 520 and the tunnel project are toll-based, and should be paid off in 15 years. IF I have grandchildren by then they’d be young.

    2. Norman, a lot of bonding capacity becomes available in the 2030s.

      The bonds being sold in the next decade are on the ST2 taxes. The Sound Move tax-backed bonds become open in the 2030s, just as Martin wrote. New bonds aren’t planned for that taxing authority.

      1. Martin wrote ST1 and ST2 bonds would be paid off in the 2030’s – he didn’t limit that statement just to ST1 bonds as you seem to think, Ben.

      2. He fixed that.

        Norman’s reply pretends *no* bonds will be paid back in the 2030s. He didn’t fix that.

  5. That ST2 schematic is the coolest and most revealing transit map I’ve seen so far.

    Let’s look at it again:

    https://seattletransitblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/st2_planning_corridors.png

    It pretty much cuts to the quick.

    Transit ’round here is all about circling a big lake. There’s no two ways around it (well, there are four actually).

    But the reason I like this abstration is it finally gives equal weight to the 3 southern centers. Renton, Bellevue and Seattle, all have equal changes to grow and develop…as equals!

    And Renton naturally might even be the better “center” of the whole she-bang…with a LINK tail dropping down through Kent East Hill and over to Covington.

    1. Studying something is not the same as giving something equal weight. In fact, studying something often shows that that something is not viable.

    2. ST has to study the corridors that people most want. I assume the Tacoma extension is on the part of the map that isn’t visible. Not enough people have clamored for a Renton-Kent line to get it on ST’s list yet. The study will show that some lines are more needed and feasable than others. I’m skeptical that the UW-Kirkland line will get into the next round of construction, but it should still be studied to find out how feasable and where it would go if it were built. That way people can’t say it’s being neglected.

      South King already has more existing commitments and desires than other subareas, with both Link, Sounder, and many ST Express routes, so it has the least ability to add another line (Renton-Kent). Proponents would also have to show that Renton-Kent would have as many riders as South Link and Burien-Renton. The reason people are leaving Renton-Kent out is they assume it would have fewer riders than those lines.

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